Thursday, April 22, 2010

Organic Biscotti for Earth Day

Long before organic was trendy, or 'slow food' even existed, my friend Val was extolling the virtues of organic and whole unprocessed foods to anyone who cared to listen. She was environmentally conscious in every way, the only person I knew back then who made the effort to recycle kitchen waste into a large compost pile in the backyard (and yes, it was often smelly). Many of my earliest taste memories were experienced at Val's house, where I spent many afternoons with her daughter Palma (still one of my best friends to this day). It's where I first tried organic yogurt (so rich and flavorful it didn't even need the 'fruit on the bottom'), learned what REAL cheese tasted like (no, it doesn't come in individually wrapped orange squares), tasted caraway seed for the first time (is this why I'm so obsessed with Irish soda bread?), was fooled into thinking carob was chocolate (pretty cool to a nine year old), and where I would ruin my dinner filling up on rye crispbread slathered with sweet local butter (a revelation, especially when you were used to margarine from a tub and wonderbread). They also had their milk delivered - creamy local organic milk, housed in smooth glass bottles, lined up neatly on their doorstep. It was a brand new world every time I stepped foot into their house and I often found myself overstaying my visit, hoping that if I hung around long enough, they'd agree to adopt me.

I can't even begin to thank Val and her family for all those happy memories. Those experiences shaped my life in so many positive ways (not only foodwise, though it's probably why I became a foodie...did I mention that they also introduced me to sushi?) Through example, Val's family taught me to always to respect the earth, never to be wasteful or take things for granted, and that ultimately, life is not about material possessions, but rather, the people you love and hold dear.

Many years have past since those childhood afternoons, but I still keep in close touch with Val and her family. Decades later, I still get that feeling of wonderment whenever I visit Val's home (different house, but same magical aura). And she's still introducing me to new taste experiences. On our last visit to Vancouver we met up for an early dinner at
Aphrodite's Cafe, a neighborhood eatery/pie shop that specializes in organic, seasonal, and eco-friendly comfort food.

Clockwise from top left: 'Portobello Belle' thin crust pizza; vegetable pot pie; spinach, apple & pecan salad; apple & cheddar sandwich with meadow side salad; ricotta cheesecake with fruit coulis; strawberry rhubarb pie.

When I told Val that I blog about food, she generously offered to share her recipe for organic Biscotti all'Anice (
Anise Biscuits). Val swears her biscotti are virtually identical to her Italian mother-in-law's secret recipe from Abruzzo. I should warn you that these are not the giant biscotti 'on steriods' you would typically find in coffee shops. These petit old-world Italian biscotti are completely unadorned (no chocolate coatings or crazy ingredients) allowing you to appreciate the simple flavor and tender buttery crumb. A hint of sweet licoricey anise makes these truly addictive!

I've been saving Val's delicious organic recipe for Earth Day, but trust me, you'll want to make these more than once a year. Enjoy!

(makes 24 big ones or 36 smaller ones)

1 cup sugar (organic)
1/2 cup butter (organic unsalted)
2 large eggs (organic, free range)
1 egg, separated (organic, free range)
1 Tbsp anise seeds, lightly crushed with a mortar & pestle
1 Tbsp baking powder (organic)
3 cups unbleached flour (organic)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp milk (organic)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream sugar and butter till fluffy; beat in the 2 whole eggs, 1 egg white and anise seeds till blended.
Stir together flour, baking powder and salt.
Blend flour mixture into egg mixture.
On floured surface (or in a large bowl), knead dough 1 minute or till smooth.
Divide dough in half.
On greased baking sheets, form dough into 2 long, flat loaves, 3/4" thick, 2" wide and 14" long.
Beat egg yolk with milk; brush over top and sides of loaves.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or till pick comes out clean.
Cool slightly. Cut loaf diagonally into 3/4" wide slices. Lay slices on sides on a baking sheet and bake 5 - 10 minutes, turning over once, till golden and lightly toasted.
Cool on racks.

Serve with coffee (great for dunking) or tea.

Phyllis' Notes:
I have dark coated non-stick baking sheets so I lined them with greased parchment paper so the bottoms wouldn't burn. Since I couldn't cut directly on the baking sheet, I used the parchment paper to gently transfer the loaves to a wooden cutting board. I cut the loaves when they were still warm into 5/8" vertical slices (totally forgetting to slice diagonally!) resulting in approximately 36 petit biscotti (minus the two I ate before the second baking). During the second bake, I toasted the slices for about 5-7 minutes on each side but they didn't get much darker in color, resulting in an emergency phonecall to Val. She said the recipe is pretty forgiving and to "play around with them to find the size you like, and the level of doneness". Toast them for a few minutes longer if you want them extra hard for dunking.

How are you celebrating Earth Day 2010? For more ways to get involved, check out:



Heavenly Housewife said...

Oh, daaaaaahling... carob does not taste like chocolate *tisk tisk*. I mean, maybe at first, but what an aftertaste. I remember they used to give it to us at school--I was a suspicious youngster LOL and I was not amused.
Val seems like a really cool lady :),
I am going to try those anise biscotti...are those the really great ones I remember you mentioning? Anise is like a Mr P favorite now so I am going to have to bookmark this one. Thanks for sharing it :D.
*kisses* HH

Phyllis said...

Heavenly Housewife: Hey, I didn't say I was a smart 9 year old (LOL)! I don't mind the taste of carob, but of course I still prefer chocolate. And yes, this is the secret recipe I mentioned to you a while ago to help use up those anise seeds :)

Tangled Noodle said...

How wonderful to have had someone like Val to share such simple truths with you as a child and then have it carried into your life now! These biscotti are marvelous - thank you to Val for sharing such a great recipe. 8-)

Happy Earth Day!

Carolyn Jung said...

Hard to beat a classic anise-flavored biscotti. But making it organic definitely raises it to another level. Happy Earth Day!

Jenn said...

It's always great when we have someone like Val in our lives. We learn so much at the same time. It's really great that you still keep in contact with her and her family after all these years.

I still have to taste carob. I just have to remember that they're not chocolate. :)

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I know I'd love these - I'm not one for "adorned" biscotti at all - and biscotti are my all-time favorite cookie.

Sue said...

Great recipe. That is wonderful that you had such an important food friend when you were young AND that you kept in touch. That's the best part.

I think the best way to have carob is with carob covered nuts. They are authentically fantastic. Carob covered raisins aren't bad either.

Phyllis said...

Tangled Noodle: I truly feel blessed to have met Val and her family during such an impressionable time in my life! And definitely looking forward to trying more of her recipes, especially the old Icelandic ones :)

Carolyn: These biscotti are on definitely on whole 'nother level!

Jenn: It's actually been a long time since I've tasted carob on its own (not counting carob-flavored desserts or nutrition bars), but I'm pretty sure you could tell the difference between carob and chocolate. I most often find carob at pet bakeries where I buy carob-dipped treats for my friends' dogs (carob, unlike chocolate, doesn't have caffeine or theobromine in it so it's safe for dogs).

Phyllis said...

Linda: Thanks! I bet you have some great classic biscotti recipes in your repertoire :)

Sue: Seems the older I get the more I cherish the people in my life. And thanks for the carob recommendations - definitely going to pick up some carob coated nuts and raisins. It's about time I tried carob again!

Anonymous said...

These biscotti look terrific, I love the anise flavor!

Juliana said...

Oh! I never made biscotti and yours look so yummie...would love to have a bite of it...happy Earth Day!

KennyT said...

Val rocks!

Phyllis said...

Juliana: They were a lot easier than I expected, you should try making them :)

Kenny: Yes, she's awesome!

Daily Spud said...

Val sounds like an inspirational lady and a very appropriate choice of subject for Earth Day. Meanwhile, these anise biscotti have got my name written all over them...

foodhoe said...

What a lovely story! The recipe sounds fantastic, I can just taste the pungent bursts of flavor from the anise seeds...

Phyllis said...

Daily Spud: Val is definitely an inspiration! I hope you try the biscotti :)

foodhoe: "pungent bursts of flavor..." - a perfect way of describing the anise seeds!

best bars to host Corporate Gatherings Singapore said...

You will enjoy having organic bicotti for the earth day. Great post